Bleeding Heart (2015) Film Review from the 14th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie written & directed by Diane Bell, starring Jessica Biel, Zosia Mamet, Joe Anderson, Edi Gathegi, Kate Burton, and Harry Hamlin.
When the term bleeding heart is applied to someone (at least, in the U.S.), it is usually in the context of a naïve, socially conscious, do-gooder – typically liberal – with more heart, than sense. In the event that writer-director, Diane Bell (Obselidia), wasn’t overly conscious of this, going into Bleeding Heart, then it’s something the audience should at least keep in mind.
Shiva (Zosia Mamet) had been making a decent living, doing something she figures herself good at, and managing her relationship, with bad boy Cody (Joe Anderson), as best she could. It probably didn’t occur to her, that much/ often, that she was miserable, and maybe could have done with being saved from life, as she had come to accept it. She had not met May (Jessica Biel), yet.
May had been making a decent living, doing something she was both good at & believed in, and appreciative of her relationship with soul-mate, Dex (Edi Gathegi). That should have been enough – and likely was – but she had always known something was missing. Recently, she discovered that there was something of that missing piece to recover. That something was Shiva.
May had been the product of the foster care system; and despite her fortunes, remained driven to seek-out her blood. Shiva was the half-sister that was kept, and May’s only remaining connection to her birth mother. On the surface, this was meant to justify May’s ensuing crusade, to save Shiva from the life she had been failing to see as a dead-end (perhaps, literally); but, in truth, May might have just been a crusader at heart – the kind people in Shiva’s circle take advantage of (according to some).
The film did not have the tightest script, for its scale. Making a detail like May’s vintage car, for instance, very conspicuous, then allowing no one but the viewer to notice it (as she went about cruising, stalking, and fleeing in it), was asking a lot (Cody was introduced commenting on its uniqueness); but, then again, it did double as a symbol of May’s last remaining shred of undomesticated self….
Jessica Biel may have found her comfort zone, in this role. Never mind that her fictional occupation, as May, mirrors her true-life affectation, and said character might be a slight extension of her true self; Biel seemed to make the most of that comfort, by conveying a genuine vested interest, in her character’s pursuit, and tangible weariness, over its inherent difficulties.
Zosia Mamet stole pretty much every scene she was in, with a mixture that was equal parts jaded, naïve, predator, prey, stubborn, and helpless. She was the stray cat that walked the fence between just needing a home, and going completely feral; and not knowing in which state she would finally throw herself at May, made for some of the film’s best moments – although the feminist empowering/ bonding moments were pretty satisfying, in their own right (thanks, in part, to some cameo slumming, from Harry Hamlin), as I could only imagine the kind of terror both women had to endure, through one night, in particular.
Joe Anderson may well be on his way to being typecast, as the townie you just don’t mess with (consider his role in A Single Shot, alone); but typecasting, like clichés, often spring from undeniable truths. Truth is, Anderson’s Cole is that guy that the girl, you might consider in need of saving, winds up hooking up with/ running off with/ running home to; and the reason nice guys finish last (just ask the would-be good Samaritan).
To some, the sensible thing to do is let the people who make poor choices live with them. This includes those who would otherwise sympathize with such lost souls – until just such a soul shows up at their doorstep. The ‘sensible people,’ in this case, included Dex, and May’s adopted mother, Martha (Kate Burton). I believe we were meant to recognize the irony, of these liberal types suddenly espousing the virtues of ‘personal responsibility;’ but why didn’t they? Was a point being made, about the socially aware actually lacking a degree of self-awareness?
Bleeding Heart may have actually posed a number of relevant questions; but in the end, opted for one of the easiest outs there has ever been. Maybe that was a point to be made, as well. Maybe the point is that we just over think things too much, and that the simplest (if not most simplistic) answers may always be the best – like it, or not. It’s the fact that I was never left sure, of any of this, which made it frustrating.
If it said anything at all, Bleeding Heart spoke to the level of commitment (or lack, thereof) behind social warriors of all stripes – the characters of this film just happening to be on the left of the spectrum. It openly called out those who claim to want a better world, but only so long as they don’t have to get their hands dirty. I suppose, in the end, this put May’s messiah’s complex in a much more positive light, by comparison.
Better to be the potential fool that throws fortune away, in order to fight for someone else’s lost cause, than the well intentioned that declares “not my fight,” when any real risk is involved. Again, a real issue; but conveyed in knee-jerk fashion. The only complimentary conclusion I could draw, from the rapid reversals (betrayals, in some sense) that came out of May’s side of the tracks, was that May had been as equally poor a judge, of character & quality of life, as Shiva. If that was a matter of subtext, that the film’s creator was going for, then hats off to her – it was a brilliant piece of subtlety, which the climax & resolution lacked. If not, well… feel free to claim that it was, anyway – make me feel better for the experience.
Bleeding Heart was wonderfully shot, well-acted (comfort zones), and earnestly directed; but ultimately suffered from the seemingly vague answers, and simplistic solutions, to very real, complex, and serious problems.
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